SHEDDIES’ SKILLS HELP DISABLED CHILDREN JOIN IN MOBILE PLAY
Lots of folk fiddle about with cars in sheds, but a few New Zealanders are handling cars with a difference. Gobabygo is a volunteer-run charity that buys ride-in toy electric cars and adapts them for disabled children. Some of those volunteers put the cars together, make the adaptations, and fit them, all in their shed.
It started with a group of mates in Auckland who had heard about Gobabygo overseas and figured that its DIY ethos would work well here. Kidz First paediatrician Adrian Trenholme suggested three children who could benefit from the increased mobility, and retired furnituremaker Geoff Bentham was roped in to work out the first adaptations and how to fit them.
Those initial children ranged in size, age, and disability but the benefits of increased mobility were immediately obvious. Parents often cry when they see their disabled child at last able to join in with mobile play alongside siblings on bicycles or scooters.
After discussing and measuring, Geoff went home and made, then fitted those first adaptations. The crew soon realized that evaluating individual needs separately was not realistic, so a therapist produced an application form. The team also began working out what could be built ahead of time and started stockpiling parts.
Geoff discovered that plastic drawer handles make good additions to steering wheels. He developed a plug-in wiring
adaptation to add a buddy button to the cars so the throttle can easily move from the foot to the steering wheel and head. The initial harness support made from plumbing pipe was replaced with a plywood backrest that he designed. And he did it all in his suburban garage.
The charity has grown a lot and demand for the cars is increasing. Support from companies such as BMW and Proactive Fire Protection — and the hard work of Rotary branches nationwide raising funds — has made it possible to give away the cars.
But Gobaby needs more skilled volunteers to help in making the adaptations and to service the cars.
The range of disabilities Gobabygo has worked around is wide and varied — but these children all have one thing in common. Their Gobabygo car has introduced them to mobile play for the first time, and it’s all down to a few men in sheds.
How can you help?
Gobabygo needs people with a wide range of skills to help in the whole process of adapting cars. Visit facebook.com/ gobabygonz or gobabygo.org.nz for more information.
The first kids to get cars — Jiselle has heart disease and needed back support to slow the rate of fatigue, Lilli (rear) needed side support in a smaller car, with the throttle shifted closer to her tiny frame Below: The final touch — Gobabygo...
Above: (Left to right) Friends Alistair McLean, David Johncock, Allan Horner, and Graeme Lobb put the cars together in Allan’s shed
Allan applying steering handles: BMW and Gobabygo logos await use
Below: Geoff discussing the adaptations Hunter will need with his Nelson therapist, Mindy Silva
Drawer handles make great steering-wheel extensions